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E-Book Publishing, Distribution, and the Death of Oyster

By Internet Lawyer
oyster e-book publishing

What does the end of Oyster Books mean for indie authors and self-publishers?

In “E-Book Subscription Service Oyster To Shut Down,” TechCrunch Writer Catherine Shu discusses the announcement that Oyster’s ebook subscription service will disappear early next year.

This imminent shutdown provides one less platform for authors to distribute their works in an online publishing world that’s increasingly dominated by a few players like Amazon and Apple.

As Shu correctly points out, “even a great user experience and team that is obviously made up of bonafide bibliophiles is not enough to guarantee success in the online book industry.”

Let’s face it — size, resources, and capital matter. With Oyster’s co-founders heading over to Google Play Books (h/t to Peter Kafka at re/code), perhaps Google is planning to compete head-to-head with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited e-book subscription service.

For indie authors, it will continue to be important to protect intellectual property rights to their ebooks, particularly as options for e-book publishing and distribution shrink. Such protection includes:

  • Understanding the terms and conditions for each publishing and distribution platform
  • Registering copyrights
  • Making sure that each e-book has the proper legal notices, disclosures, and disclaimers

Note that to take advantage of higher royalty rates and other perqs, some platforms require exclusivity or impose other conditions upon publication elsewhere (e.g. pricing restrictions).

In such cases, it may make sense for different editions of the same book to be created in order to maximize the revenues generated by each work across all platforms.

Of course, if you have any questions about your legal rights and obligations as either an author or self-publisher, you should consult with an experienced attorney who understands the e-book publishing industry.

3 Common Legal Mistakes Nonfiction eBook Authors Make

By Intellectual Property, Internet Lawyer
ebook legal protection

Do you make these legal mistakes with the ebooks you write?

Whether you’re writing for Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, or some other platform, there are three legal problems that you can easily avoid by taking a few simple steps.

Mistake # 1 – Failing to Register Your Copyright

Properly registering the copyright for your eBook with the U.S. Copyright Office ( provides you with several legal advantages in case a competitor or reader tries to rip off the content of your book.

For example, copyright registration enables you to sue for infringement to stop piracy plus provides the opportunity to pursue significant damages for infringement and reimbursement of your attorney fees.

Having these available to you adds some teeth to a cease-and-desist demand letter sent to a pirate even if you don’t actually plan to sue.

Mistake # 2 – Misusing Someone Else’s Copyrighted Material

Just as important as protecting your intellectual property is making sure that your e-book doesn’t infringe upon the copyrights owned by others. These types of infringement typically involve text and images.

Text and Fair Use

With regard to text, the concept of “fair use” is extremely vague. Some copyright owners don’t mind if you quote a paragraph or two with attribution. Others take the position that quoting even five words without permission constitutes infringement. Err on the side of caution by getting written permission from the copyright owner before “borrowing” text to put in your eBook.

Photos and Graphics

Images within an eBbook and  e-cover design are big concern too. You should assume until proven otherwise that graphics and photos you find online are owned by someone else. This means getting written permission to use those images in your eBook.

Chances are that the right to use an image inside your eBook or as an e-cover will cost you a small licensing fee. Make sure it’s clear what you’re buying. For example, some stock photography licensing sites charge more if you want to use an image in an eBook versus on a blog.

If you’ve hired someone to design your eBook cover, you’ll need two levels of protection. First, you’ll want to verify the source of any images used and whether there is a legal right for the designer to incorporate it into your eBook’s cover. Second, you’ll want your written independent contractor agreement with the cover designer to ensure the rights to the cover are assigned over to you.

This is a minefield because sometimes a designer will license the image to use in the designer’s business but the license doesn’t include a right for the designer to transfer the image rights to you as part of your eBook cover. A separate license to the image may be required.

Mistake # 3 – Forgetting to Put the Right Disclosures and Disclaimers in Your eBook

In addition to copyright information, it’s important to make mandatory disclosures and limit your liability exposure in nonfiction ebooks through disclaimers. An experienced Internet business lawyer can help you craft the right language for your eBook as well as address any copyright questions you have. Or, if you’re on a limited budget, you can choose to use a quality set of do-it-yourself templates instead.

For example, material connections to products and services you’re promoting in your eBook should be disclosed. If you’ve inserted affiliate links in your eBook, the reader should be informed of your affiliate status in order to make an informed buying decision. Without such a disclosure, the reader might mistakenly assume that your motive for making a recommendation was not motivated in part by income.

Nondisclosure of material connections can lead to trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and consumer protection divisions of states’ attorneys general.

Your eBook’s disclaimers can reduce the risk you’ll be sued because of what you’ve written. The content of such disclaimers will vary depending upon the subject matter of your eBook. For example, an eBook about diabetes will have different disclaimers than one written about making money online through blogging.


E-books: Are they too expensive?

By Internet Lawyer

rick-broida-cheapskateOver at CNET News, cheapskate Rick Broida rants Why does this e-book cost $14?!

Please don’t tell Rick about He’ll have a stroke when he sees ebooks that sell for $47 bucks and more. Of course, Broida can be forgiven for misunderstanding product pricing because he confesses…

I’m no businessman (English major, natch)

However, there’s a big lesson here for info product marketers. Try to make your digital product look too professional and vanilla (like the slick cover on a professionally published dead tree book), and your prospective client has been pre-conditioned to compare your product’s pricing to what would be paid for a paperback novel on Amazon. You’ll be lucky to get 20 bucks for it.

If your product delivers hundreds or thousands of dollars in value to the client, there’s absolutely no reason to price it for $2.99 like it was a bodice-ripping romance novel that can be downloaded on a Kindle. Let the market decide the value through split-testing but don’t be afraid to charge more for your product if the value delivered to the client justifies it.